November 22, 2012

Turkey with a side of guilt

Yesterday my cousin posted a picture of his son dressed in an Indian vest and feathered headdress of construction paper, and I thought, "What a cutie." But I immediately worried that what I should have thought was, "Cultural appropriation is wrong at any age."

And then I thought about the other kids, dressed as Pilgrims with big paper buckles on shoes and hats. And this is even more problematic, almost like dressing as a Klan member or a Nazi. I wonder how cute those kids look. 

We're perpetuating a harmful myth!
Tee-hee!

It does upset me that in the year 2012 my little cousin is still being taught the myth of Thanksgiving. I’ve read a lot about the reality of Puritan genocide and also how perpetuating the myth continues to hold us back from becoming a “post-racial” society. Let’s throw that junk away!

But on the other hand, do I want my sensitive young cousin to feel guilty about something that people he resembles but is in no way related to did hundreds of years ago? Because he probably would. And while glossing over the violence in America's past is wrong, the moral of Thanksgiving, the one that never actually happened, is a good one: people from different backgrounds sitting down together in friendship. Isn’t that what we want?

And further, with the ever-changing nature of this country, how long must we be responsible for the actions of people who are not even, for the most part, our ancestors? I understand that I benefit from all that horrible stuff the first white Americans did, but I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do about it.

So yeah, Thanksgiving. We get a long weekend, time to gather with friends and family. That’s nice. Frankly, I’m a big fan of re-appropriating holidays as I see fit. I keep the Christ out of Christmas, and my Easter tradition borders on sacrilegious (though I think of it as sacrilicious). In the case of Thanksgiving, I think it’s worthwhile to spend a day overeating among family, loosely defined as whoever I choose to be around, and to take a moment to appreciate what we have.

And tomorrow most Americans will rush to stores to buy more, and some people will die in that pursuit. And then there are the deeply ingrained gender roles that usually come along with this holiday. But those are both matters for another post.

Happy Turkey Day, folks.

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